Attar bottles wholesale in Pakistan sick

Oil the wheels of progress - women work for fair trade
Eli Ashkenazi, Haaretz, October 24, 2005


In the middle of the Kafr Kana industrial zone, between furniture stores, workshops, auto repair shops and factories, there is a small and quiet place that is very different from the noisy male environment. Four women are sitting at a long table with very small glass vessels and a pile of dry za’atar (thyme) leaves and a small scale. They talk softly to each other as they pour za'atar leaves into the mason jars. In a few days, a shipload of 10,000 jars - each weighing 80 g - will be leaving for Belgium. You have to hurry now.


In the corner of the room, stainless steel containers await the beginning of the olive harvest and olive oil production. Then comes the most important part of the job: filling the bottles with olive oil for the market. From the next room comes a strong smell of soap, which is made from olive oil in Nablus. The bars of soaps are piled up in large pyramids until they are dry enough. Apart from the traditional soap, soap is also made to order from milk, honey, lemon or from the mud of the Dead Sea. They put the words "Sindyanna of Galilee" (Galilee oak) into each bar, pack them and sell them in all over the world. Despite the problems imposed on trade by the checkpoints around Nablus, 60,000 bars of soap were sold last year.


This small company is at the heart of the activities of the Sindyanna Society in Galilee, which not only succeeds in helping the women to get ahead and giving them employment, but also promotes Jewish-Arab cooperation and helps the olive tree growers in Galilee. The society, which was founded almost 10 years ago, grew out of a school for mothers founded by two women in Majdal Krum, Hadas Lahav from Haifa and Samia Nasser Khatib. At school, the mothers learned how to help their children with schoolwork and how they could be more concerned with raising their children. Lahav says they didn't realize how much the curriculum had changed until then. They were not used to interfering in the community's school system.

But the main goal of Sindyanna in Galilee was not even to help the women, but to start an economic project that would help the Arab olive growers to market their olive oil and thus encourage them to practice independent Arab agriculture. The project started because the Arab olive growers in Galilee were facing increasing problems; one blow after the other: (again) reduced water quota, closure of the Palestinian market on the West Bank, whose traders used to buy olive oil from wholesalers and sell it on to Arab countries; they also knew nothing of new quality standards for olive producers. At the same time, several large Israeli companies took over the olive oil market. So the Arab olive growers who found no place in these companies were pushed to the edge.


Lahav and Nasser Khatib initially decided to improve the opportunities for the Arab olive growers in the olive oil market by making them aware of the new market conditions. They held seminars for the olive growers, during which experts explained to them the quality that is required of olive oil today. During one of these seminars, Dr. Fathi Abdel Hadi, an adviser to the olive industry in the Ministry of Economic Affairs: "If we only produce oil that does not match the high-quality olive oil, it cannot be sold."

The thing is, the olive groves in the Arab sector are passed on by inheritance and so each time they are divided, they get smaller. "But that is against the economic logic," he said to the olive growers. "So the moshavin and kibbutzim became the most important producers."

The Kibbutz Revivim e.g. the 4000 Dunum watered Has olive groves, produces 200kg of olive oil from each dunum. That is an amount that the villages of Deir Hana, Sachnin, Arabeh and Ilabun together produce on 9000 dunums of land. This is related, among other things, to irrigation and better land use. (Uneven water distribution !! ER)


Employing women was a natural “by-product” of the Sindyanna founders coming with unique experiences. They had worked with women in the mothers' school. After a few years they began to look for new activities suitable for the employment of women. On the last International Women's Day, Lahav said, society's women workers spoke of their desire for economic independence and the self-esteem that came with work. "This desire, a fundamental right of every person, is still a distant dream of 83% of Arab women," said Lahav. "We have a great responsibility here."


It was not easy for the group of women to achieve commercial status among Arab olive growers. The main advantage of Nasser Khatib and Lahav was that the olive growers could not keep up with the rapid development of the olive oil market and could not afford to be picky. They also learned afterwards that the women were buying the oil at a fair price, that they could rely on it, that they were keeping their word and that they were not trying to take advantage of the olive growers. - the consequence was that the men were ready to do business with the women.


Nasser Khatib and Lahav began buying oil from over 50 farmers in Galilee, bottling it and putting it on the market. Last year they sold 30 tons of oil to the UK, Japan, USA, Canada, Australia and other countries in Europe. The company's products are distributed through the International Fair Trade Association (IFAT), which supplies products that are not related to exploitation or infringement in manufacture. Only women are busy packing.


Samia Naamneh from Arrabeh, who had worked in the company for two and a half years, said she had found everything one could want in a job: “I work here peacefully and quietly, I feel that this is my job, and I have no one above me When sales go up, I feel like it's thanks to my work. Work is not just money. I also pass something on to society. I don't waste time. "

Tujan Sharari from Nazareth, a mother of three and whose husband is sick and unable to work, was unemployed before she found a place in society. Rula Naamneh from Arrabeh, also a mother of three, worked until recently in seasonal farming for NIS 80 per day and with no social benefits. "Now I produce things that people in Japan or other countries want - that makes me happy and proud," she said.


The workers recently took a trip to the port of Haifa to see with their own eyes how the products they were packing were loaded onto a merchant ship.

For Samia Naamneh it was the first train journey of her life, for Rula Na’amneh the first visit to a port. "Next time we might go to places where our products are sold - Japan or Europe," joked the women.


"Fair trade" is developing rapidly abroad. There is a great demand for Sindyanna of Galilee's products. But Lahav and Nasser Khatib say that the reason for the demand is not only related to the message of peace and Jewish-Arab cooperation, but also thanks to the good name, reliability and high quality of their products. This is a status that we have gradually built up, customer after customer, for years, with patience and determination, because we had the vision.


The Sindyanna Society survives financially mainly because it is a small organization with a small hierarchy. There is no manager and no marketing director. Lahav and Nasser Khatib buy the oil themselves. And they are responsible for the packaging and marketing. The profit is put mainly in courses for the olive growers and in the development. This made the move from the small town of Majdal Krum to the larger rooms of the Kafr Kana industrial zone possible.


At the moment they are trying to encourage olive growers to switch to organic farming. To date they have only been able to win one Arab olive farmer for the organization, which is responsible for organic cultivation in Israel. Abdel Majid Hussein from Dir Hana, who studied agriculture and has great knowledge and experience in growing olives, did not find it difficult to switch to organic cultivation. He says that Arab olive growers have suffered for years from being neglected by industry, but “government neglect has also been accompanied by neglect on the part of farmers. The Arab farmer is not familiar with the concept of acidity in olive oil ... For us, olive oil is a staple food; For the foreign market, olive oil means even more, something spiritual that helps body and soul. "

Hussein, who is a member of the board of directors of Sindyanna in Galilee, estimates that 95% of all olive groves in the Arab sector are organic. But they lack official recognition. Indeed, organic cultivation is beneficial to the Arab olive grower, which could bring them into a prestigious market that is rapidly developing around the world. But to help more people take this step, you need authority and influence.

Just as Sindyanna preaches to olive growers in Galilee to keep up to date and innovate, Lahav herself practices what she preaches. After olive oil and its products were bought, she now also started buying za’atar and syrup from the carob tree, which is produced in a cooperative of 20 women in the villages of Zabuba, Anza and Kafr Dan (near Jenin). The workers in this region are almost all widows or have sick or disabled husbands.


But since the "separation fence" (in the West Bank) was built, they have been banned from coming to Israel. So they lost the main market for the Za'atar they cultivated. "We buy the goods at a fair price and draw attention to the situation of women who have great problems finding a source of livelihood," says Lahav. At Sindyanna they proudly emphasize that everyone who buys this Za’atar in European markets receives a product that was only made by women, from planting in fields at Jenin, packing in jars and loading onto pallets in Kafr Kana.


Another initiative has recently started: weaving baskets. Six women have already been trained by the consultant Ronit Pan how to weave baskets from olive branches and palm fronds. “This work requires a lot of skill and physical strength. The decision to weave the baskets was made with the intention of giving women an opportunity to work at home so that those who have difficulty leaving the house can earn something, ”says Ronit Pan.


“You have to believe in a change,” says Samia Nasser Khatib. “We believe in the small steps and Sindyanna is such a small step. We have to start at the bottom. We turn to the weakest part of society, those who otherwise get no help. And we believe in their abilities. "


Olive tourism

The story of Sindyanna in Galilee is part of a mosaic of the olive oil industry in the north (Israel). The Olive Branch Festival, which started last week, will be marked this year by good cooperation among residents: Jews, Muslims, Christians and Druze.

The festival will last until November 12th. You will visit olive groves, olive oil factories and tourist sites in the north. There will be music events, Israeli art, food, and olive picking and preserving. At the Hananyafarm, which is Israel's olive advice center, there will also be health workshops and a farmers' market where you can taste oil and olives.


(German Ellen Rohlfs)